Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Hands-on review: INQ1 a.k.a. the 'Facebook phone'

Over the last week I’ve been playing with the INQ1, the so-called ‘Facebook phone’. Designed by the same team behind mobile carrier 3’s original “Skype Phone” (see last100’s coverage), like its predecessor, this fairly nondescript 3G candy bar slider masks plenty of innovation on the software side.

Integrated into the handset, for example, is Facebook, Skype and Windows Live Messenger, along with various widgets, such as Yahoo Weather. Just don’t call it a smartphone, says the company. Instead, the INQ1 is billed as a low cost device, designed to appeal to a broader and, perhaps, younger market than existing smartphones from the likes of Apple, RIM, Nokia and HTC.

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My new Macbook and me (first impressions)

Late yesterday afternoon I purchased one of the new Macbooks (announced on Wednesday) and in the process finally retired my trusty 12 inch Powerbook from daily blogging duties.

I’ve only really had the new machine fully set up and operational for about a day (after transferring over my user accounts/data, and installing essential apps such as Firefox, Skype etc.), and while I may get around to doing a full review, I wanted to first share my initial impressions, a few of which have surprised me.

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Hands-on: BBC iPlayer for Nokia N96

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the BBC’s TV catch-up service iPlayer (UK-only), which I regularly access on my laptop, cable television set-top box, and of course my trusty iPod touch. The problem with the latter version, however, is that it offers streaming only not downloads, which doesn’t sit well for a mobile device as it prohibits off-line access such as when traveling on a plane or train or anywhere without WiFi access. It isn’t the BBC’s fault but the fact that Apple doesn’t license the iPod and iPhone’s proprietary DRM solution – so-called FairPlay – to third-parties. DRM is a necessary evil, says the public broadcaster, in order to meet its obligations to copyright holders who require that programs only be made available for up to seven days after broadcast.

In contrast, the newly released version of iPlayer for Nokia’s latest flagship handset, the N96, doesn’t suffer the same problem, offering both streaming and downloads. Earlier this afternoon I got some hands-on time with iPlayer on the Nokia N96.

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UK pop/rock stars join Featured Artists Coalition to put pressure for change on music industry

It’s certainly a noble notion — and here’s to the success of the Featured Artists’ Coalition, even if it does appear to be a longshot.

Dozens of UK pop and rock stars, including Radiohead, Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Kate Nash, Gang of Four, and The Verve, are among the acts who have signed on to a new music-industry pressure group, the Featured Artists’ Coalition [via the BBC and others].

As the music industry continues to shuffle, kicking and screaming, into the digital age, the FAC seeks to protect the artists’ rights over their own music, in addition to having a greater say in how their songs are sold and getting a bigger slice of the profits.

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Review: XBox Live Video Store – where's all the content?

Although the UK version of Microsoft’s Video Store for its XBox 360 console launched last December, it wasn’t until just over a month ago that I got to try out the service for myself. Microsoft’s PR team kindly loaned me a top of the line model – the HDMI equipped 120GB “Elite” version – to hook up to my High Definition TV to download and watch a few shows and movies purchased from XBox Live. However, while the service is dead easy to use and worked as intended, for a number of reasons I came away disappointed.

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Review: Samsung Tocco SGH-F480

Tocco is the Italian word for touch, and as you may have guessed, the Tocco SGH-F480 is Samsung’s latest touchscreen phone to hit the market. Once again, comparisons to the iPhone are inevitable, and although the Tocco is no iPhone killer – not that such a thing exists – it does sport at least a couple of features – haptic feedback and a 5 megapixel camera – that better Apple’s iconic device.

The Tocco is also smaller than the iPhone, measuring 98.4 x 55 x 11.6 mm compared to Apple’s 115.5 x 62.1 x 12.3 mm. It’s lighter too, shaving off just over 25 grams. Of course, what you gain in pocketability, you lose in screen real estate (particularly important for a touchscreen device), although we think that for those who find the iPhone to be on the bulky side, especially when used as a phone, the trade off could be worth it. If you’ve ever wondered what an iPhone nano might look like, the Tocco gives you a pretty good idea.

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I've jumped on the Netbook bandwagon (MSI Wind U100 / Advent 4211 review)

I've jumped on the Netbook bandwagon (MSI Wind / Advent 4211 review)Ever since Asus debuted its first Eee PC, I’ve been fascinated by this new category of mobile device, dubbed the Netbook by chip maker Intel.

The form-factor is a notebook but these devices are purposely cut-down in terms of price – the Eee PC 701 sells for under $300 – as well as size and weight, and to some extent features. While designed primarily as a way of accessing the Internet on-the-go, Netbooks don’t have any pretensions of putting the Internet in your pocket, and instead look to keep the screen size and keyboard small enough to still be extremely portable, yet large enough to be that bit more productive.

See also: Don’t buy a Netbook pleads PC industry

This typically translates into screen sizes between 7 and 10 inches, with keyboards that feature 95% full-size keys, albeit with a rather cramped layout. Also, don’t automatically expect a Netbook to come loaded with a Microsoft operating system, though many offer XP as an option. Instead, in order to keep the cost down, and in recognition that many applications now run in the browser, Netbooks commonly run a flavor of Linux and related open-source software. Another distinguishing feature of the majority of Netbooks is that they do away with a traditional hard drive in favor of solid state storage with less capacity – 4-8GB – again recognizing the move towards Cloud computing.

However, a couple of things about the original Eee PC stopped me from making a purchase – an 800 x 600 screen resolution and an aging and limited processor – both of which have now been addressed by more recent models from Asus itself, along with a host of competitors including MSI and Acer, all three of which run on Intel’s new and improved Atom “Diamondville” processor.

So which of the new Atom-based Netbooks did I go for?

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How-to: Stream media from a Mac to PlayStation 3

How-to: Stream media from a Mac to PlayStation 3Apple and Sony are fierce competitors, but that hasn’t stopped the PlayStation 3 playing nicely with Mac OSX computers. Thanks to some great third-party software, and Sony’s decision to add support for the UPnP AV standard, the PS3 has, in some ways, become a better solution than Apple’s own offering to the problem of streaming content – audio, video and photos – from a Mac to the TV. Here’s our quick guide to creating a Mac-supported PS3 media center.

Step One: Turning the Mac into a PS3-friendly media server

Assuming that your Mac is already on the same local network as your PlayStation 3, the first thing you’ll need to do is install a UPnP AV-compliant media server. In fact, this will need to be done for all of the Macs that you want to share media from.

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Hands-on: Nokia's N810 Internet Tablet

Hands-on: Nokia’s N810 Internet TabletIntel calls it the Mobile Internet Device (MID); Nokia calls it the Internet Tablet; Apple calls it an iPod (or the “first mainstream Wi-Fi mobile platform“). And that’s before we factor in so-called Ultra Mobile PCs (UMPCs) based on Microsoft Windows or low-cost Linux alternatives. In 2008 it seems that there is no shortage of companies (beyond smart phone makers) wanting to put the “Internet in your pocket”.

Over the Christmas holidays I got to play with one such product: Nokia’s N810, the third device in the company’s relatively new Internet Tablet lineup. But before I get to my hands-on impressions of the N810, I want to make a few observations about the product category in general.

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Review: SyncTV offers more hope than promise

Review of SyncTVA new on-demand Internet TV service, SyncTV (see our previous coverage), aims to challenge the cable television industry by offering the a la carte model — only pay for the channels or shows you watch — that customers crave, but which the cable operators refuse to offer.

At least that’s what the San Jose-based startup says publicly.

However, after playing with the service today (currently in private Beta) and learning more about SyncTV’s technology, I suspect a target much closer to home: Apple’s iTunes, along with the many other Internet TV offerings that make it difficult, if not impossible, for consumer electronics manufactures (CEMs) to build devices — set-top boxes, Internet-connected televisions and portable media players — that can download and playback content from their service.

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